A Culture of Violence? Violence and Conflict in South African History, 1880-present: Context (HIH3032)
|Pre-requisites||At least 90 credits of History at Level 1 and/or Level 2.|
|Co-requisites||A Culture of Violence? Violence and Conflict in South African History, 1880-present: sources.|
|Duration of Module||Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;|
Given South Africa’s exceptionally high rights of violent crime, gender-based violence, and police brutality, many observers speak of the country in terms of a “culture of violence”, first bred during the colonial and apartheid periods, and furthered under the post-apartheid state. Violence in South Africa has become normative rather than deviant, and used as a regular means of resolving social, political, and domestic conflict. This module traces the development of such violence, from the foundations of the country’s mining sector in the 19th century, to the repressive conditions of apartheid and the violent methods employed by those who struggled against it, to the country’s recent episodes of xenophobic attacks, escalating rape rates, and use of vigilante justice. Stretching from 1880 to the present, this module introduces you to various forms of violence perpetrated and experienced by a range of actors in South African history. It encourages you to critically engage with multiple understandings of violence, and understand the connections between structural, everyday, and physical violence, and between the country’s turbulent past and violent present. You will study not only the repressive methods used by the apartheid state and the history of various liberation groups, but also the social histories of mine labourers, sex workers, women, children and youth who were also affected by the wider culture of violence that developed in the country. The module engages you with various historiographical debates central to South African history, as well as wider theoretical and interdisciplinary discussions surrounding violence, its meanings, and purpose.
Through engaging with the complex historiographies, methodologies, and approaches to studying violence in modern African history, the module aims to develop research, analytical, interpretative, and communication skills that can be applied to further academic studies or in graduate careers.
ILO: Module-specific skills
- 1. Evaluate the different complex themes in social, cultural, and political histories of modern South Africa.
- 2. Make close specialist evaluation of the key developments within the period, developed through independent study and seminar work.
ILO: Discipline-specific skills
- 3. Analyse the key developments within the formations of segregation, apartheid, and the post-apartheid state in South African history, from 1880 to the present.
- 4. Focus on and comprehend complex issues.
- 5. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner.
- 6. Follow the changing causes of and responses to state violence, communal conflict, criminality, and gender-based violence in South African history.
ILO: Personal and key skills
- 7. Conduct independent and autonomous study and group work, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
- 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
- 9. Present complex arguments orally.
This module focuses on the context to the history of violence and conflict in South Africa, from the 1880s to the present. It first explores the foundations of violence in both urban and rural communities in the early 20th century, before going on to explore the structural violence of the apartheid system, the physical violence employed by the state against non-white and dissenting populations, and the counter-violence used by the country’s various political movements and liberation organisations. Alongside this history of political violence and the liberation struggle, the module also explores the simultaneous development of communal conflict, crime, and gender-based violence within South Africa’s townships and rural areas. It engages students with a wide range of approaches to South African history, providing them with a detailed understanding of social, political, and cultural histories of the country. In particular, it tasks students with understanding the connections between these various forms of violence, and explores how prolonged political conflict and the structural injustices of apartheid bred wider cultures of domestic violence, gang conflict, and violent crime which have remained in the post-apartheid period.
While some students may have prior knowledge of modern African history, this is not a prerequisite for this module. The course thus begins with two introductory seminars: one introducing students to the wider historical context of the module, and the second to key methodological approaches to studying South African history. These introductory sessions will be important in offering a broad overview within which students can frame their subsequent work. The co-requisite module will focus more closely on the historical sources available for the study of modern South African history, thus complementing this module. The content of the various seminars will vary week to week: some topics will be explored over a series of seminars; some seminars will be used as source workshops; and others will be used to examine in-depth examples and case studies.
Students are expected to prepare for each seminar by reading and evaluating the listed secondary and primary sources in advance, and should come to class prepared to discuss these in detail.
Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)
|Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities||Guided independent study||Placement / study abroad|
Details of learning activities and teaching methods
|Category||Hours of study time||Description|
|Scheduled learning and teaching activities||44||22 x 2 hour seminars|
|Guided independent study||256||Reading and preparation for seminars, coursework and presentations|
|Form of assessment||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|Seminar discussion||Ongoing through course||1-7, 9||Verbal from tutor and fellow students|
|Worse of two essay marks||3000 words||1-6, 8-9||Verbal and written|
Summative assessment (% of credit)
|Coursework||Written exams||Practical exams|
Details of summative assessment
|Form of assessment||% of credit||Size of the assessment (eg length / duration)||ILOs assessed||Feedback method|
|Essay||25||3000 words||1-8||Verbal and written|
|Essay||25||3000 words||1-8||Verbal and written|
|Unseen exam||50||2 questions in 2 hours||1-8||Verbal and written|
Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)
|Original form of assessment||Form of re-assessment||ILOs re-assessed||Timescale for re-assessment|
|Two essays||Two essays||1-8||Referral/deferral period|
|Unseen exam||Unseen exam||1-8||Referral/deferral period|
Indicative learning resources - Basic reading
Alan H. Jeeves and Jonathan Crush (eds), White Farms, Black Labour: The State and Agrarian Change in Southern Africa, 1910-1950 (Durban: 1998)
Belinda Bozzoli, Theatres of Struggle and the End of Apartheid (Athens, Ohio: 2004).
Belinda Bozzoli (ed), Class, Community and Conflict: South African Perspectives (Johannesburg: 1987).
Clive Glaser, Bo-Tsotsi: The Youth Gangs of Soweto, 1935-1976 (Oxford: 2000).
Gary Kynoch, “Urban Violence in Colonial Africa: A Case for South African Exceptionalism.” Journal of Southern African Studies 34:3 (2008): 629–645.
Helena Pohlandt-McCormick, “I Saw a Nightmare--”: Doing Violence to Memory: The Soweto Uprising, June 16 1976 (New York: 2007).
Jacklyn Cock, Colonels and Cadres: War and Gender in South Africa (Cape Town: 1991).
Jacob Dlamini, Askari: A Story of Collaboration and Betrayal in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle (Oxford: 2015).
Jeremy Seekings, Heroes or Villains? Youth Politics in the 1980s (Johannesburg: 1993).
Monique Marks, Young Warriors: Youth Politics, Identity and Violence in South Africa (Johannesburg: 2001).
N. Chabani Mangayi and Andre du Toit (eds) Political Violence and the Struggle in South Africa (New York: 1990).
Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Philippe Bourgois (eds) Violence in War and Peace (Malden, MA: 2004).
Philip Bonner, Peter Delius, and Deborah Posel (eds), Apartheid’s Genesis: 1935-1962 (Johannesburg, 1993)
Raymond Suttner, The ANC Underground in South Africa (Johannesburg: 2008).
William Beinart, “Introduction: Political and Collective Violence in Southern African Historiography,” Journal of Southern African Studies 18:3 (1992): 455-486.
William Beinart, Twentieth-Century South Africa (Oxford, 1994)
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Key words search
South Africa; apartheid; violence; crime; gender; youth